I used ta do a little, but a little wouldn’t do / so the little got more and more
I just keep tryin’ ta get a little better / said a
little better than before
(Guns N’ Roses – Mr. Brownstone)
Dear, tech addicts. I have a confession to make:
I’m not very good at playing Magic.
Despite this, there was a time when I would Top 8 pretty much every online Constructed tourney I entered, not unlike what Gerry Thompson is doing in
the StarCityGames.com Open Series nowadays. (The four-round Daily Events weren’t introduced back then.) This glorious 0-2-drop-free era is commonly
referred to by paleontologists as the Devonian period. Back then, big schools of fish would gather around whatever it is that schools of fish gather around to share stories about the
latest exploits of Wefald, the MODO legend — he whose replays were mistake-free and whose Cabal Therapies would always hit multiples, etc.
So how come I won all that much if I suck at this game? No, it still has nothing to do with the Scandinavian Mafia. (And if you want your kneecaps to
remain intact, I suggest you stop those insinuations right away.) I didn’t really say that I suck at Magic either. I said I’m not very good at playing Magic. There’s a difference. But when you play as much as I did back then (basically all the time), you tend to make the right plays not
from skill, but from massive experience. I don’t play all that much nowadays, but I’m still quite adept at building decks, both in Limited and
Constructed, and I know a thing or two about the (often) forgotten arts of sideboarding and metagaming in Limited. But I don’t play well enough. All in
all, I’ve come to the conclusion that throughout my Magic career, most of my winning has been a direct result of simply showing up with better weapons
than those of my opponents — be it in the form of better decks or more practice with the format. The times I’ve actually outplayed someone at a Pro
Tour are few and far between.
Why am I telling you this? Well… I’m really telling it to myself — with y’all as witnesses. The confessor and his confidants, etc. You see, I’ve made
a decision to skip all of the remaining Extended PTQs this season. Including the local one with maybe 40 players. And I won’t try to get back on the
Pro Tour until my playing has improved to the point where I can walk into the venue knowing that I have a good chance of winning the whole thing. Just
being qualified isn’t enough for me. I’m really sick of travelling halfway around the globe only to punt in some deciding match and finish just outside
the money or whatever. Putting these thoughts into actual words and sharing them with you will hopefully add to the pressure. The pressure to improve.
‘Cause that’s what life is all about, in my opinion. Anything less than perfection is failure.
One tiny obstacle remains though: How to actually go about improving. If I had a simple, generally applicable answer to that question, I wouldn’t be
sitting here writing articles. I’d be out lighting churches with these. And
eating unicorn steak. And using my sickening amounts of moneyz to bribe Wizards of the Coast into reprinting Dark Confidant in every single set they
I’m pretty sure I know the cause of my own bipolar play patterns though. Ironically enough, my biggest strength as a deckbuilder is at the same time my
biggest weakness as a player. Namely my tendency to let my thoughts drift away into unchartered mental territory instead of focusing on the game at
hand. Despite teaching university-level mathematics at the age of 22, I’m mostly dominated by the right half of my brain. Reason and logic to me are
tools, not goals. So in order to become a better player, I have to learn how to utilize those tools in more refined and controlled ways. Put in Magic
terms, I have to tweak my mental mana base so that I can actually cast all these sweet blue spells stuck in my hand before I get run over. For the
spells are already there, waiting…
I’ll probably insert a few lines here and there in future articles about the status of this imprÃ˜vement project, so stay tuned, those of you with an
interest in such matters. And for those of you without such an interest, here are the usual decklists and such:
Top five Extended decks on Magic Online (updated March 10):
5:Â Red Deck Wins (9%)
4:Â Bant (15%)
3:Â Faeries (16%)
2:Â U/W Mystic (17%)
1:Â Elves (21%)
The red decks are making somewhat of a comeback, it seems. There are several different versions running around, in addition to the â€˜basic’ build I
showed you in this article. Some are
based around Kuldotha Rebirth; some splash green for Bloodbraid Elf; some splash blue for counterspells and Mindlock Orb in the sideboard; and some
have noticed that a bunch of the cheap red dudes share the creature type â€˜Shaman,’ so they play Shared Animosity to give their deck a hard-hitting
tribal flavor. Here’s a sample decklist:
- 1 Ashling the Pilgrim
- 4 Flamekin Harbinger
- 4 Rage Forger
- 4 Intimidator Initiate
- 4 Manaforge Cinder
- 4 Goblin Arsonist
- 1 Tunnel Ignus
- 4 Spikeshot Elder
In addition to Shared Animosity, this deck plays Rage Forger as a quite powerful finisher. Rage Forger can be tutored for by Flamekin Harbinger,
bringing the (virtual) number of finishers up to twelve. This should make the deck more consistent than it appears at first glance. One other thing to
note is that unlike Elvish Archdruid, Joraga Warcaller, and the rest of the Elf lords, the size bonus granted by Rage Forger sticks around even if the
Forger itself gets removed. I also like the inclusion of Forked Bolt in this world of Elves and other mana creatures, but as a whole, this deck seems
too vulnerable and one-dimensional for my likings. Then again, that’s usually the case for all the other mono-red decks as well. I guess it’s mostly a
matter of taste. This deck is also dirt cheap to build, which might be relevant for those of you on a tight budget. If you end up trying it, I’d
strongly suggest finding some way around Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender, though. Contagion Clasp, maybe?
The Extended version of Kuldotha Red looks something like this:
The changes from the Standard version are minor. Dragon Fodder seems like an obvious inclusion, since… you know… it makes more than one dude and is
red and cheap.
Bone Saw is a card I had to look up, since I had never heard of it before. And with good reason. I’m no expert on Alara Block Draft, but I’m pretty
sure I’d pick a basic land over this every time. I’d probably pick the token card over it too, if it was still in the pack. Bone Saw is a higher pick
than the rules inserts, though. At least I think so. In other words, it’s not a very good card. But it costs zero mana, and it does more than a
Chimeric Mass cast for zero, so it makes sense to jam it in with the angry, angry, ANNNGGGRRRYYYYYYYYY little metalheads.
This deck kills unprepared opponents really fast, but sometimes you’ll be attacking with nothing but a double Bone Saw-ed Ornithopter and curse
yourself for bringing a bad draft deck to an Extended tourney.
Oh, and one more thing: If you choose to give this deck a try, find something cheap, red- and/or silver-colored (not named Tunnel Ignus) instead of
playing Tunnel Ignus. He doesn’t really do much now that Valakut is a dead deck.
Oh, and yet another thing: If you bring this deck to a tournament, make sure to download the brilliant trio of songs entitled Straight From Hell, Rot
In Hell, and Utter Hell from NÃ¶rwegian thrashers InfernÃ¶ to yÃ¶ur iPÃ¶d tÃ¶ get yÃ¶urself intÃ¶ the right mÃ¶Ã¶d.
Bant and Faeries haven’t developed all that much since last week, but here is one list that caught my eye:
This list fits in nicely with the current multi-format trend of jamming not only the Swords, but the whole Stoneforge Mystic package into any deck that
can support white mana. The other white card in the maindeck is Path to Exile, and in a metagame full of Mirran Crusader and Sword of Feast and Famine,
playing non-black removal seems like a really good idea. Path to Exile also deals with Great Sable Stag, which is far from irrelevant. Chris Davis, the
guy behind the Shyft4 nickname, chose to play only two Mistbind Cliques, which also makes a lot of sense when as many as eleven of his lands will enter
the battlefield tapped when played on turn 4.
Moving on to the sideboard, we see a full complement of Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tenders, which are very helpful in dealing with the red decks that Faeries
traditionally has been a bit soft to. The Esper Charms are excellent in the mirror, where they help significantly when it comes to winning the
Bitterblossom war. Tidehollow Sculler is also present as a four-of, and once again, it’s a choice that I can get behind, since this is a format without
all that much removal. The Sculler also conveniently dodges Go for the Throat, so it should be excellent in the mirror (at least on the play) to
complement Thoughtseize and make for some extremely disruptive starts.
Last, but most certainly not least, we see a singleton Meddling Mage in Chris’s sideboard. While I’m not sure if the Mage actually does all that much in the metagame, my intense love for this card forbids
me to not play at least a miser’s copy in any deck with both blue and white mana. (Provided it’s legal in the format, that is.)
While I’m not entirely convinced about all the details here, especially the full four Mutavaults, I still think the deck is an excellent idea. I
wouldn’t be surprised if the (rather short) future of Faeries looks somewhat like this list. The white splash seems to fix a whole bunch of the
problems that plague the traditional Faeries lists in the current metagame. A slightly tweaked version of this beauty is probably what I would show up
with myself if I had a PTQ I wanted to win. If the mana base could support it, I’d probably fit some number of Infests in the sideboard to combat
Elves, but apart from that I would have to do some proper testing before recommending any changes.
The U/W Mystic decks have largely begun playing Mirran Crusader over Kitchen Finks, which is a change I support. The Crusader hits harder, and his
protection from black and green is quite relevant. He’s also one mean Sword-wielder. He’s also one mean Sword-wielder. (This is not a typo — it’s a
joke. And you should LOL when you read it.)
As most of you know by now, Gerry “God” Thompson started splashing red in Standard Caw-Blade. So I guess it was just a matter of time before the same
technology appeared in Extended:
I don’t have all that much to say about this build, since it’s a pretty straightforward extendification of GerryT’s Caw-Blade deck. It basically gives
up Mutavault for Lightning Bolt, Ajani Vengeant, and a two-card combo (Cunning Sparkmage plus Basilisk Collar) that demolishes creature decks
The only thing that immediately springs to mind is that four Spell Pierces seem a bit excessive in a format where the biggest deck is Elves. But maybe
it’s justifiable when the rest of the deck plays so many anti-creature cards. Testing will tell. Not my testing, but someone else’s.
And that brings us to what is currently the biggest deck in the format. The top four decks from last week have fought it out, and Elves came out on
top. The deck doesn’t seem to have changed much recently, but I’ve noticed that the combo version is beginning to pop up here and there. This version
has its emphasis on generating obscene amounts of mana and drawing equally obscene amounts of cards via Regal Force, instead of going aggressive with
Joraga Warcaller and Wren’s Run Vanquisher. It seems very consistent with the addition of Green Sun’s Zenith, and if it continues to grow in
popularity, I’ll take a closer look at it next week.
-Wefald- (signing off)